Voucher program hits other SRHA budgets

Published 10:13 pm Friday, June 28, 2013

The Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority has slashed spending for its Section 8 program by shifting costs to other budgets, SRHA executive director Clarissa McAdoo said.

“The Housing Choice Voucher Program is not able to carry the portion it has carried in the past,” she said. “That is the case with a lot of the line items. That means they were picked up in other budgets.”

Many line items in the spending plan for the voucher program have been cut drastically, even taking into account it’s only for six months, after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development only confirmed funding through the end of December.

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For instance, the legal fund has been cut from a projected $4,126 for fiscal 2013 to only $50. Supplies have been slashed from $4,866 to $1,250, postage from $7,410 to $750, and computer support from $6,353 to $250.

McAdoo rejected the appearance that either the program was padded or will be too starved of money to function. The authority’s budgets — the Board of Commissioners approved nine Thursday — are interconnected, she said, adding they are administered from the same building with pooled resources and services.

“They are all connected to each other, and each one of the line items is the same line item in each of the budgets,” she said.

“Because the budgets are interconnected, that means that the Housing Choice Voucher Program isn’t paying its fair share toward expenses, which puts a higher responsibility toward the others. We are reducing the expenses in every area to make up for what the HCVP can no longer pay.”

The Central Office Cost Center budget is shouldering the biggest impact of the voucher program’s diminished ability to pay its way, McAdoo said.

Staff training, which jumped from a projected $1,301 in the previous 12 months to $5,000 for 2013-2014, is the largest line-item increase within that budget.

Staff training has been entirely cut from the voucher program for July through December, as have an additional six line items.

The voucher program, serving 809 Suffolk families, has been impacted by reduced HUD payments as a result of sequestration, and rising fair market rents, according to McAdoo.

To help bridge the gap, SRHA has applied to HUD for what are known as set-aside funds. “We are very hopeful that our application will be approved, and whatever amount of money they provide will certainly enhance this six-month budget,” McAdoo said.

McAdoo said she is firm in her decision not to rescind any vouchers due to funding pressures. Instead, along with borrowing from its other budgets, hoping for the set-aside funds, cutting staff hours and borrowing from reserves, the authority is targeting fraud.

Non-complying families, those not meeting obligations, and families that have shrunk while remaining in apartments too large for their needs are being culled or downsized.

The process started about five months ago, McAdoo said, with families facing the scrutiny during annual recertification.

“It is the customers who misrepresent themselves or the staff who has not done the appropriate oversight,” she said. “That’s something we are going to be beefing up.”

Staff will also look at other issues, she said, such as those who report zero income, which can arouse suspicions of fraud.

“We have to ask the questions that are a bit personal,” McAdoo said.